Belling to present research in Madison

April 5, 2017
Posters in the rotunda

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Samuel Belling, a University of Wisconsin-Platteville engineering physics and math major, is conducting research on quantum dots made of semiconductor material that can be used in various novel applications such as lasers, LED light sources and solar cells. This research is to develop Computer-Aided Design, or CAD, software that can simulate and design quantum dots made of different semiconductor materials and geometric shapes.

Belling, a senior from Madison, Wisconsin, will present his project at the Research in the Rotunda event at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison April 12.

Quantum dots are man-made material structures that confine electrons in nanoscale range. Semiconductor quantum dots can be made up of different materials such as silicon, germanium and many more. “Indium arsenide is the material we’ve been looking at the most. The reason it is useful to make them nano-scale is because you deal with quantum mechanics to get functional properties. We do numerical modeling because the equations that you need to solve almost always need to be solved numerically,” said Belling.

Belling’s project is made possible through funding from a research grant from WiSys Technology Foundation and the UW System. In 2016, four UW-Platteville professors received four research grants totaling more than $175,000. Dr. Wei Li, engineering physics professor at UW-Platteville, was a recipient of the grant and is Belling’s academic advisor and mentor of the project.

“Semiconductor quantum dots, as man-made atoms, have tremendous applications in optoelectronics, quantum devices, medical science and other engineering domains. Currently, quantum dot design and fabrication follow a trial-and-error approach because there is no CAD software available. Therefore, the fabrication is expensive and time consuming. The objective of this project is to develop CAD software that can simulate and design quantum dot with various material compositions and geometric shapes,” said Li.

Belling stated that his goal is to develop a way to use software to fully investigate complications and solve problems with quantum dots. “This is a very technical topic,” he said. “The technology is being developed right now and there are a lot of opportunities for it to be used in industry.” 

Belling has acquired knowledge of the field from a variety of research literature and analyzing relevant equations. He has also used software called Comsol Multiphysics, a computer simulation package used to solve multi-physics problems used in fluid dynamics and mechanical engineering, but for this project specifically has the capabilities to solve equations based on quantum simulations.

“Comsol is definitely super useful in many different fields, especially physics and engineering, but if I’m familiar with it for my career it’s a big bonus,” said Belling.

According to Belling, using the Comsol Multiphysics software is just one step in his chain of processes while conducting research using the finite element method to solve equations numerically. “The first step is to figure out what equations apply in situations we encounter. The biggest one that complicates things is there’s strain in the dots. You usually grow them, and then you embed them in another material,” stated Belling. This process induces strain, which has several components. The difference in atomic spacing between the quantum dot material and the material the dots are embedded in and grown on induces strain in the dot. Belling accounts for that when solving for the energies of electrons confined in the quantum dot.

“It turns out to be kind of complicated. Basically we figure out what effects there are – like strain – write out equations, and then use Comsol to solve numerically. All in all, it’s reading, math and coding,” said Belling.

“Sam is a good example for undergraduate research students; he can stand research procedures, he really enjoys what he is doing, and has a clear career plan. Now as a coauthor, Sam has submitted a journal paper and an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference paper with me. He also got a prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates opportunity at Duke University in summer 2017. This undergraduate research experience helps him develop technical skills while also preparing him for the future of graduate studies or high-tech industry jobs,” said Li.

Belling and Li are now in their final stages of calculations. They are currently calculating strain and once complete they will be able to have a final model representing the electron energies, incorporating the strain calculations. From there, they will analyze the geometry and compare and contrast from the ideal model.

“Part of our job as professors is teaching students regular class time, but sometimes students want to do more than what they learn in the classroom; they want to do some project, research, learn new things, that’s also part of our professors’ job.  At UW-Platteville, our undergraduate students have more opportunities to work with faculty members on research projects and that compares us with big universities. This is one advantage of our our university,” said Li.

After his undergraduate time at UW-Platteville, Belling wants to pursue a Ph.D. and if possible would like to work on this research again in graduate school.

“It feels really good; I enjoy the project so it’s been really easy to work on it. I’m very happy to be one of the people representing the research at UW-Platteville. I think it’s a cool project so I’m glad other people see its worth and that I am able to take it to that venue,” says Belling.

Written by: Lindsey Overby, Communications, 608-342-1194,


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